A/N: Heyyy! 8DD Guess who's back with some NejTen action? x33 Okies, well, as the summary suggests, this was cowritten with the incredibly talented NejiTen author, Midnight Insomniac. We've been working on this since..erm, September or October I would say. It took a while, but was definitely worth it! We agreed that we're gonna kill some of you fangirls with all the fluffiness. xDD Anyway, this was a refreshing change from what I'm used to writing; I had a BUNCH of fun cowriting with Midnight Insomniac! ^_^ Thanks for the ride, girly! =DD
Oh, and this takes place in Shippuden. ^.^ Not sure when, prolly somewhere around the middle of the series. 83 Oh, and yes, we got the name "Upendi" from The Lion King 2 xDD it means "love". Surprise, surprise. x3
Disclaimer: Neither Midnight Insomniac nor I own Naruto. If we did, this would happen- *Orochimaru spontaneously combusts* and this also- *Neji and TenTen get married* :DD So, has that happened yet? Do we own Naruto? I THINK NOT. XD
Neji strode toward the edge of the woods, taking a break from his training session, and filled up his canteen with water from the creek nearby.
Tenten sank down against a tree as her sparring partner disappeared from the clearing. She wiped the sweat from her face and attempted to calm her breathing.
Neji made his way back to Tenten and studied her, handing her his canteen. "Let's consider that a warm-up," he stated firmly.
Tenten suppressed a groan. She took a gracious swig of water and shakily got to her feet.
Neji took back his canteen and gave her a cursory glance, his face void of emotion but on the inside examining her with concern. "A few more minutes rest," he said, beginning to pick up the scattered weapons on the field.
Tenten was... surprised, to say the least, at his act of concern. She had known Neji for years and not once had he seemed to care about her health. She nodded and sat back down. Neji paused and straightened as he reset the weapons, raising an eyebrow in question at her surprised expression. Tenten shook her head and closed her eyes. She took a few deep breaths. She could still feel the weight of her partner's gaze as he scrutinized her behavior.
"Way to use the power of youth!" Guy encouraged them from a distance with a thumbs-up.
Neji rolled his steely eyes and disregarded their sensei. He adjusted his Shinobi headband as it threatened to droop down from his forehead and sideglanced at Tenten as he finished. "Ready when you are."
Tenten could sense impatience in his voice and stood up immediately. She too adjusted her headband and scrolls. She sent a late glare in her sensei's direction and then nodded at Neji. "I'm ready," she told him.
Neji nodded and took on the Hyuga stance, then paused and stopped, his eyes narrowing. "Someone approaches."
Sure enough, a messenger hopped down from the trees and spoke to Guy, head lowered in secrecy.
Lee tilted his head, staring at the scene curiously. "What do you suppose he is here for?"
"It seems to be a messenger from Lady Tsunade," Neji responded, straightening as he studied them critically.
Tenten leapt down from her perch in a tree branch and landed next to Neji with a soft thud. She followed his gaze, squinting to interpret the messenger's miniscule hand gestures.
"Maybe we have a mission," she told the Hyuga standing by her side.
Neji gave the slightest nod. "My thoughts exactly."
When Guy was finished conversing with the messenger, he turned and motioned for his squad to approach.
Tenten kept pace with Neji, her feet moving in synchronization with his. Gai's face seemed troubled. His worry was contagious as Tenten's face soon reflected his expression.
Guy looked at his team seriously. "We've been assigned a mission by Lady Tsunade. She requests our presence immediately."
"YEAH! Our own mission! At last!" Lee cheered.
Neji crossed his arms. "Can we just get going already?" he demanded crossly.
Tenten rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips, waiting for Lee to stop frolicking through the grass like an idiot.
Guy led the way to the Hokage's estate. Following, Neji was absorbed in his thoughts, wondering if their mission would be a B-rank or below. Meanwhile Lee was thinking of toothpaste.
Tenten walked with determination and timidness. What was the mission? Why was her sensei, the most energetic, overly enthusiastic, man she had ever met, being so quiet? Why was he so serious? What was going on? Her hands balled into fists as these thoughts flooded her mind.
Neji sideglanced at Tenten and noticed her fists clenching tensely. His eyes showed a quiet confidence and reassurance, then the familiar stoicness returned when they arrived.
Gai turned back every now and then and glanced at his pupils. He could practically feel the waves of tensity rolling off of them. "They won't take this well," he thought as they arrived at the Hokage's office door.
Shizune hurriedly ushered them in where Tsunade was waiting for them. She glanced up from her paperwork and nodded. "Ah, there you are."
Neji waited impatiently for her announcement as he sideglanced at his squad, who looked no more patient than he.
Tenten felt sweat roll down the side of her face. Her heart thundered against her ribcage. "Hurry up already!" she urged her role model in her mind, now frustrated by Tsunade's antics instead admiring them.
Tsunade shuffled through her papers. "You four are assigned to a B-ranked mission. You must escort the Sand's Kazekage from here to his rendezvou point in a town called Upendi."
..That's it? Neji thought, eyes narrowed.
Tenten's jaw dropped to the floor. "That's it! Are you kidding me?" she exclaimed, but immediately regretted it.
Tsunade frowned sharply. "I can assign this mission to another squad if it isn't good enough for you."
"Not at all, Lady Tsunade! This is a wonderous opportunity!" Lee spoke up quickly.
Neji gave Tenten a sidelong glance warningly.
Tenten glared back at her sparring partner. She knew that he knew that she knew he didn't think it was worth their time either.
Guy bowed. "We will be honored to accept this mission. Just leave it to us!"
Neji nodded in agreement. "We're on it." He shot Tenten a meaningful look before heading toward the door.
Tenten wanted to grip his too-long hair right out of his head, but instead bowed in Tsunade's direction and exited the office. In the hall, she caught Neji's arm. "What's your problem? You don't like it either! Quit trying to put me down!"
Neji arched an eyebrow in her direction. "Release me." He shrugged his arm out of her grasp. "I'm fine with the opportunity to at least go on a mission. We should at least accept it graciously." One side of his mouth quirked in amusement. "Even if it's another B-rank for the board."
"Whatever! But you better behave," Tenten warned him, poking him in the chest with every word.
Neji grabbed hold of her finger before she could poke him again and raised his eyebrows. "I should be telling you the same."
Their faces were dangerously close, their foreheads were pressed together. "No you don't," Tenten whispered, nearly brushing her lips against his.
Neji realized what they must appear like to onlookers and stepped away, avoiding her eyes as he followed Guy and Lee down the hall. "Keep up if you can," he called back to Tenten, a smirk in his voice.
Tenten stuck out her tongue at his back and hurried down the hall. She glared daggers at his back and smirked when she saw his twitch.
"Alright, so first we must locate the Kazekage," Guy evaluated as they stood outside the Hokage estate. "I know he was visiting Konohagakure, but.."
"There he is." Neji nodded in the direction of a cafe, where the Kazekage stood sipping tea.
The team set off towards him. They leaped from roof top to roof top and finally raced through the streets. Gaara, who had sensed their arrival, stood up to greet them.
Neji nodded respectfully at Gaara when they landed in front of him. "Nice to see you again."
"It is our honor to escort you!" Lee beamed brightly.
Tenten simply bowed and smiled, leaving the greetings to her teammates. "Alright! Are you ready to move out?" Gai asked the Kazekage, blinding him with his shiny teeth.
"I suppose," Gaara answered slowly, careful not to look him in the smile.
Neji sighed. "Lead on," he said to their overenthusiastic sensei.
"Yes! Do, Guy-Sensei!" Lee chimed in.
Neji looked at Gaara with a roll of his eyes. "You get used to it."
Tenten, whose hands had been resting on her hips and her face twisted into an disapproving scowl, straightened up and prepared to head out. She, along with her teammates and client, jumped to the roof tops once more and rushed towards the village gate.
"Upendi, right?" Guy inquired. "Ah, Upendi. I remember that place. Young love. Why, back in my day.."
"Ooh! Guy-Sensei with another story to tell!" Lee clapped, clearly excited.
Neji scowled. Oh brother.
Tenten rolled her eyes and saw Gaara do the same. Why, oh why, must he always tell us some ridiculous tale? I bet most of them are not even true, she thought.
"Please, Guy, spare us." Neji lingered in the back with Tenten and Gaara, eager to get away from the craziness.
Gai took a dramatic breath before beginning his story in an overly enthusiastic voice.
Lee whipped out his notepad. "More reminscing from Gai-Sensei!" he sputtered, overjoyed.
Gai beamed a sparkly smile. "I met this lovely lady.."
Here we go again, Neji thought in irritation.
"A lovely lady? You sure it wasn't a guy?" Tenten muttered. The two males traveling beside her smirked at her comment. Her sensei and favorite pupil did not hear her.
Neji gave a small smirk then turned to Gaara, tuning out Guy's ramblings as he'd learn to long ago. "Has the visit treated you well?"
"In more ways than one," came a stoic reply.
Tenten's eyebrows raised when she heard his response. "And by that you mean..." she questioned.
Neji rolled his eyes. Why did women have to be so literal about some things? Couldn't they just take a simple answer and be satisfied?
Gaara almost smiled. "This visit has been good for me, is all."
Tenten nearly shoved a kunai up Neji's butt when she saw him roll his eyes. Sexist jerk, she thought.
As if reading her mind, Neji narrowed his eyes warningly at his comrade. "Don't push it," he mouthed.
Gaara noticed the interaction and smirked to himself.
"Shut up," Tenten mouthed back. The three stopped conversing from there. Gaara contemplated that the two leaf shinobi beside him would make an excellent couple.
Neji noticed Gaara studying them intently and picked up his pace. It wouldn't do for the Kazekage of the Sand to think they were a squad always at ends.
Tenten increased her pace when her sparring partner did. It was like the two were connected. They moved, breathed, and pretty much lived in sync, save for matters of the heart.
Gaara spectulated the two together, deciding that his rendezvou spot with Kankuro and Temari would be the perfect place for the comrades.
"How much longer, Guy-Sensei?"
"My best guess, Lee, would be about fourteen more hours."
Fourteen more hours of this? Neji inwardly sighed, then distanced himself from the others with a new vigor. He could at least try to make the most of it or spend it in agony. Definitely not the latter.
Tenten frowned as her teammate again changed their distance. She slowed and looked at him questioningly. She only got an irritated grunt as a response.
Neji arched an eyebrow at her, but other than that didn't acknowledge her presence. He focused his gaze ahead, openly ignoring her.
Tenten tuned out Gai's rambling and observed the forest. It was nearly autumn, the foliage was beginning to show signs of reds, yellow, and oranges.
Gaara caught up with her and penetrated her knowingly with warm teal eyes. "The leaves are strange this time of year." He was clearly beating around the bush to try to start a conversation with her.
Tenten quirked an eyebrow, but understood he was trying to initiate a conversation. "Well... I wouldn't call them strange," she started off slowly, over thinking her words," They're... different, pretty almost."
"Almost?" Gaara asked.
"Well... yeah. I mean they're dying right? And death isn't always... beautiful?" The ending was not supposed to come out as a question, but it did, no matter how hard she tried to keep her voice from squeaking.
Gaara's lips curved into the slightest hint of a smirk as Neji shook his head at her words and sped up. "There's tension between you two." He stated it perceptively.
When Gaara uttered the those words, Tenten, caught off guard, slipped on a tree branch and plummeted to earth. She squeezer her eyes shut. "Oh, jeez, someone help me," she screamed mentally. Unfortunately, no prince in shining armor came to the rescue. Instead, her rear end made a new friend: the hard, solid ground.
Neji turned and noticed TenTen's downfall (quite literally), then quickly hurried to his comrade's aid. He landed swiftly beside her. "Clumsy, much?" He held out his hand. Gaara watched from above, carefully poised on a tree branch.
Gai noticed the pause and kept going, calling over his shoulder, "Pick up the pace! Slowing down the Kazekage is NOT an option!"
"Yes! Embrace the power of youth!" Lee chimed in.
Tenten was frustrated. She refused to be embarrassed. She in fact, did not grab Neji's hand, but instead swatted it away rudely and picked herself off the ground. She ignored Neji's frown and leapt to the tree branch.
Neji shook his head, knowing he should have expected as much before taking to the trees. It seemed as if when he tried to be courteous, she got angry. Either way, he got the same reaction. "Hn."
Gaara glanced at them knowingly but decided not to comment.
Tenten's frown remained intact as she leapt from tree to tree. The sky was beginning to darken. "We should set up camp," she thought.
As if reading his student's mind, Guy landed in a clearing. "This will be a good place to set up camp," he announced.
"It's out in the open," Neji pointed out critically.
"Exactly. This way the enemy won't be able to find a place to hide. they will be forced into combat immediately!" Gai explained.
"So will we," Tenten muttered.
Neji rolled his eyes. "Makes perfect sense," he mumbled as he put his pack on the ground. "I suggest we form a circle around Gaara to ensure safety."
"Good call, Neji!" Gai enthused.
Tenten set down her pack. "Good call, Neji!" she imitated her sensei quietly. She honestly wasn't sure why she was being so grumpy. Perhaps it was because Neji was being uncooperative and mean. But just as TenTen thought this, his behavior from when they were at the training grounds reentered her mind. "Why was he acting that way?" she mumbled aloud.
Neji's ears perked up at Tenten's muffled words and glanced her way, inquisitively raising an eyebrow before setting up his pack.
Tenten didn't notice her teammates gaze and instead, continued mumbling.
Neji lowered himself to the pack as the rest of the group followed suit, unanswered questions whirling around in his mind. He disregarded how close he was to TenTen and closed his eyes, arms behind his head in a casual pose.
Tenten turned her gaze on Neji as soon as he looked away. Then she'd look away when he looked at her.
Gaara took notice of their fleeting glances and smiled to himself.
Slowly the sun slipped below the horizon as the group succumbed to slumber.
Tenten caught of a glimpse of her sensei and Lee as they slept. As they snored, their eyebrows wiggled. She sighed and shook her head.
The next morning, bright and early, the sun peeked out from behind the trees and the birds sang. Then Guy and Lee screamed, totally ruining the serenity of the moment.
"UP AND AT 'EM, TEAM!" Guy yelled, doing a thumbs-up. "Let's head out! Daylight's burning!"
"Hardly," Neji muttered as he stood.
"I wish you were burning," Tenten mumbled, still sleepy and stiff.
Gaara was sitting on a stump, watching all of them intently.
Neji concealed a smirk at Tenten's statement, inwardly agreeing with her as he bundled up his pack. "How much longer until we reach Upendi?"
"At this rate, probably in about twelve hours," Guy responded. "Let's get it moving, you two!"
"Hai, hai," Tenten mumbled and leapt to the tree branches with the rest of her companions. An awkward silence settled over the group.
Lee decided this was the perfect opportunity to play a game to pass the time. "I believe a game to keep our minds alert would do us well! What do you think, Guy-Sensei?"
"I think you're right on, Lee! Let's play a round of I Spy!"
Neji managed to conceal a groan. Wonderful.
"I believe since I was the proposer of such a youthful game, I should go first!" Lee declared. He scanned the foliage, before opening his mouth again (much to the dismay of his companions, excluding Gai). "I spy with my little eye, something that is red!"
Neji sighed. He refused to participate in this game. Absolutely refused. It was too early for all this..
Tenten took an exasperated breath, "Lee, every thing's red!" The leaves all around them, were indeed, nearly all red.
"Including Gaara's hair," Neji quipped, the first comment from him that morning. Gaara nodded silently in agreement.
"Excellent deduction, my youthful friends! Now it's your turn!" Lee exclaimed, peering behind him at the peeved Hyuga.
"Pass. I refuse," Neji stated bluntly, irritation showing out from behind the wall over his stormy eyes.
"Oh, c'mon, Neji! Have a heart!" Guy prodded eagerly. "A youthful one!"
Tenten sighed and decided to be of some assistance. "C'mon Neji! Just do it," she encouraged, or rather, forced in a "if you don't do it, I'll hurt you" way.
Neji got the message and shot Tenten a look that warned her to keep silent. He mumbled some inaudible words.
"Speak up, Neji!" Guy encouraged.
"My eyes," Tenten guessed.
In truth, it'd been her hair. The first thing Neji noticed about her every morning, the way the sun brought out its shining, healthy layers. He wondered what it'd look like down from its hairdo.. Neji shut out the thought. "Not even close." He spoke distastefully and turned his head in the other direction, anticipating the end of this quest.
Tenten frowned and muttered something sounding suspiciously close to "baka" under her breath.
Gaara glanced between the two and leaned in toward Tenten. "As I mentioned yesterday.. tension," he commented almost inaudibly.
Tenten blushed, "We're perfectly fine," she hissed back.
"Could've fooled me," Gaara ventured. "And it wasn't my intention to make you lose your footing yesterday." He glanced at her perceptively.
Neji didn't like how Gaara and Tenten were whispering to each other behind him. It made him feel... uneasy, for some odd reason. He sideglanced at the duo, attempting to sort through his befuddled feelings.
"Well I know that," Tenten huffed, "It just... surprised me that's all."
"Because it's true," Gaara retorted perceptively.
"It is not," Tenten insisted stubbornly. She pulled ahead of him to block out his voice and end all conversation.
"Your denial speaks for itself," Gaara responded as he caught up to her, a knowing look in his eyes. "Continue to contradict yourself if need be, but it only proves my point."
Tenten wanted to shove Gaara into a tree so hard, his head would get stuck. She growled at him, "Shut up." Every word was clearly pronounced, promising pain if defied.
Gaara's mouth slightly twitched, as if tempted to smirk or quirk just a little, but he received the message easily. Remaining silent and sensing her deep anger, he picked up his pace.
Neji's ears picked up on Tenten's furious octaves and glanced behind him furtively, sending Gaara a sharp glance that warned that if he had done anything to upset Tenten, he'd have to endure Neji later.
Just as I thought, Gaara thought with amusement.
Tenten silently fumed and trapped herself in her own little bubble. Her sensei and Lee were oblivious to the entire conflict as expected.
Gaara could see what was coming. Neji looked back at Tenten once, twice, then at last slowed down as curiosity overcame him, Gaara was sure. To ensure secrecy and a private conversation, Gaara weaved his way over to Guy and Lee, not eager for their company nonetheless.
Neji quirked an eyebrow at his feminine comrade, his eyes asking the questions he didn't need to voice.
"You don't need to know," Tenten said, her voice thick with anger. "Stop butting in to my affairs and acting all high and mighty." Her pent-up fury at everything that'd occurred in the past two days was getting to her, and all came out in one spout.
Neji's more stoic ways were lost on him this time. His white eyes narrowed in barely concealed fury. "I'm always wrong in your eyes, aren't I, TenTen? I can never say or do something with potentially good intentions without you putting words in my mouth." His words were cutting and cold.
Tenten's hands fisted and waves of anger rolled off her form. "It is your own fault I believe that. You never, ever, have anything nice to say. So why start now? And even if you were kind, I'd never give you my full respect. Why? Because you have to earn it, something you haven't and never will try to do. You think that you're superior to everyone, well open your eyes: you aren't God. And you are far from perfect."
Neji's eyes hardened and his fists shook at his sides. "If that's what you think.."
Lee noticed the conflict as he glanced behind him, his brow furrowing in concern. He weaved his way back to the duo, trying to make peace. "My youthful friends, now is not the time for division or strife among us! It is our duty to escort the Kazekage! If we quarrel constantly, what does that say about us?"
Neji glanced at him impatiently and shook his head, composing himself. "I wouldn't expect any of you to understand." He made his way closer to Gaara and farther away from his comrades, refusing to let TenTen's words jar him. But the truth was, they cut deep. Mostly because they were true and he hated to even acknowledge it.
Tenten watched Neji's form drift towards Gaara. Her eyes stung and she desperately held back tears. He deserved it, she thought over and over again. But she knew he was hurt by what she had said. She wanted to hug him, but he was furious.
"Alllriiight, everyone! Are you ready for this?" Guy yelled, turning to beam a sparkly smile.
"Press on, Guy-Sensei!" Lee exclaimed in pure giddiness.
"We've arrived to Upendi!" The trees gradually slipped away to reveal a busy, pretty town.
Tenten's mood was too sour to take in the beauty of the small village. She merely trudged after her companions, not really paying attention to what was in front of her. Her speed increased unconsciously, as she unintentionally tried to catch up to Neji. In fact, she ran right into his back. Neji on impulse, realizing who had just collided with him, turned around in a flash and caught her. It was reflex for him, a surprise for her.
Neji found his eyes meeting Tenten's beautiful brown ones, briefly enjoying the feeling of her in his arms. But it quickly dissipated as he remembered what had happened between them. He released her abruptly and turned around to keep walking. "Watch where you're going," he muttered under his breath, regretting the words as soon as they left his mouth.
"So, what part of this lovely village are we journeying to, Lord Kazekage?" Guy inquired, admiring the town and it's romantic atmosphere.
"Gaara. And it's not far."
Tenten frowned at Neji's behavior and resisted the urge to well... hug him. Yes, she wanted to hug him. She wasn't sure why, but that hallow emotionless facade had slipped just a tad when he caught her and looked her in eye. His orbs were filled with a foreign feeling she wasn't sure of. In his eyes was love, concern, worry, tenderness... the list could go on and on. The fact he felt this way towards her of all people, or at least showed it to her, made her feel... funny.
"Would you like a rose for your sweetheart? Or feel free to wallow in the fountain of youth and tenderness!" A merchant called out to Neji, who briskly kept walking and slightly stiffened.
Guy stopped short. "Did he say youth?"
"Come, Guy-sensei. We must accompany Gaara, do you not recall?" Lee reminded kindly.
Neji tried to disregard the emotions swirling inside of him beneath his stoic facade, but all to no avail. Why was it that Tenten could make him angrier than a Jinchuriki and then as lighthearted as a bird the next? It was frustrating.
Tenten blushed at the merchant's advertising call. She could see Neji's back stiffen and for a moment, she was sure he felt something for her. But the way he kept walking and paid no heed to the man left her questioning herself.
Gaara sideglanced at Tenten. He had already meddled one too many times, but he decided to give her a tidbit before he was reunited with his siblings. It should give her something to think about, anyway. Gaara didn't make any effort to lean closer, but instead spoke in a barely audible voice, yet loud enough for Tenten to hear, "Keep in mind that love comes in many ways. I'm living proof of it."
Neji hardly noticed Kankuro and Temari come into view, he was so engrossed in his thoughts.
I need to stop thinking about her. She's nothing to me. No more than a pawn I can use to become stronger. Gah! What am I saying? She's my friend. Neji shook his head, his thoughts jumbled. Tenten jumped at the sound of Gaara's voice. She refused to believe what he had just said. "He's toying with me," she told herself.
Gaara approached his siblings and nodded gratefully to Team Gai, expressing his appreciation by his eyes. Kankuro and Temari each in turn nodded in thanks, then the trio took off immediately.
"Since we finished that earlier than expected, I say we look around this quaint little village," Guy proposed, glancing around eagerly.
"Most agreed, Guy-Sensei!" Lee piped up.
Neji found his eyes wandering back to TenTen's, then immediately chided himself for doing so. He kept his gaze locked at the town around him. It really was a pretty little village, nicely decorated and heavy with the atmosphere of... well, romance. "Perfect," he muttered feverishly under his breath.
Tenten sighed when she realized how lovey dovey the town seemed. "This will be interesting," she thought glumly.
"Where do you propose we journey to first, Guy-Sensei?" Lee asked eagerly, ever loyal to his role model.
"Hmm.." Guy glanced around then spotted a night market. "Oh! Let's check out that festival!" It was heavily adorned with hearts and couples walked around hand-in-hand. Neji nearly facepalmed.
Tenten winced when she saw how romantic the festival was. I can't do this, she thought, not with him around. I'll go insane. She bit her bottom lip, unable to tear her eyes from Neji's back. She was mesmerized by the whipping motion of his hair. The way his shoulders and arms shifted back and forth as he walked. She decided against her will, that wrapping her arms about his torso and resting her head on the back of his shoulder blade would be the most wonderful feeling in the world.
Neji was always able to tell when someone was spectulating him. He always got a chilling feeling that let him know immediately he was being watched. Instinctively he did a 360, scanning his white eyes around for any potential of danger. Instead his eyes met Tenten's warm chocolate ones and he froze in midstep, realizing that his instincts had proven correctly. He had been watched.
Tenten was unable to avert her gaze elsewhere. If it was out of mesmerization or simple rebellious attitude, she wasn't sure. The two stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity. Out of the corner of her eye, Tenten could see Neji's fist clenching and unclenching, and then finally he spoke: "What?"
A simple word to which Tenten had not the slightest clue on how to respond. She decided keeping her mouth shut and her glare fierce were better than stuttering. Especially around someone as hot-headed as him. Stumbling over your own words, was a sign of weakness to Neji.
Neji waited impatiently for a reply until it was clear he wasn't going to receive one. Letting a guarded wall slip over his eyes, he stiffly turned back around, reluctance to go to the festival evident in every step. How had such tension built up between Tenten and him?
As if reading his mind, Tenten gave into her thinly veiled frustration. "You can't keep walking away from this!" she shouted at Neji's retreating back.
Tenten inwardly knew he wouldn't turn around again to confront her, and so she walked rather quickly until she was shoulder to shoulder with him. This would ensure a definite response.
Neji allowed a scowl to slip past his defenses, his body going rigid at her words. "What do you want from me?" he demanded.
Tenten sighed. "Stop pushing me away!" she exclaimed.
"Now, now, team," Guy intervened, stopping to turn toward the arguing duo. "I know things have been strained and tense lately, but what do you say we kick back and relax? I'm sure the summer festival will do much to clear our minds."
"Most agreed, Guy-Sensei!" Lee persisted.
"Or blow our minds," Tenten mumbled but complied. Neji stood stonily beside her, his face void of emotion.
Gai and his pupils followed him along the streets. As they passed each shop, restaurant, etc. Tenten and Neji grew increasingly aware of all the mushy lovey goodness and were quite nauseated by the time they arrived in front of the hotel. When the receptionist told them a mistake must have been made and the only rooms booked under Maito Gai were honeymoon suites, the two were ready to rip their hair out.
"Well, look on the bright side. It's better than no room at all. Right?" Gai said, attempting to life their spirits. When he realized only Lee was going to respond, he sighed and decided to give it a rest. But only until the fatigue wore off and the fires were rekindled within his other two students. "Alright, follow me! Lee, you and I will share a room. Neji and Tenten, I'm sure you two will be fine together. We will head out in three hours for the festival.
Neji's pupil-less eyes hardened. "You expect me to share a room, a honeymoon suite much less, with her?" he demanded, pointing a finger at TenTen. "You can't possibly even comprehend-"
"You can and will," Gai ordered firmly. "Proper ways are lost on this town. Besides, you two need some warming up. What better way to accomplish that than this?" He just barely was able to dodge the kunai a certain brown-eyed kunoichi hurled at him.
"Absolutely not," she hissed. "If you force me to, I'll kill him."
Neji scoffed. "As if you could accomplish anything remotely close to harming me."
"Why I ought to..." And with that, Tenten had tackled the Hyuga to the ground. She landed a blow straight on his porcelain nose. Neji growled as blood spurted out. He wrapped his arm around the female's neck and trapped her in a head lock. Tenten managed to bite his wrist after much squirming. Neji pulled away with a yelp and was about to spring at her again, when Gai interfered.
"That is enough you two," he said, in a very serious tone. "If there is anymore bickering or violence, I will have you two relieved from your duties as shinobi, permanently. Understand?"
Tenten wiped the few tears that had leaked from her eyes while Neji wiped his nose with a handkerchief. They both nodded. When they got to their rooms, Gai gave the two one last warning glare before turning around. Tenten and Neji glanced at each other, both a bit ashamed at what had transpired in the lobby.
Inside, after a moment of silence, the Hyuga cleared his throat awkwardly and said: "Look, Tenten, I realize that we haven't been on the best of terms during this mission, but perhaps if we put all that quarreling aside, we could remain friends."
His training partner raised her eyebrows, perplexed. It took a moment to comprehend what Neji had said and was trying to do. "You're apologizing," she said softly. Neji nodded.
"I'm sorry," he insisted.
Tenten bit her lip. The urge to hug Neji once again filled her heart to the brim. Without thinking about it, she immediately wrapped her arms around hi stiff form. A small smile plastered itself on her face.
Neji stiffened at first on impulse. The Hyugas never, ever openly displayed affection or emotion. He wasn't used to it. But he found that maybe.. maybe it wasn't so bad. He felt a weight lift off his chest and the tension completely melt away as he wrapped his arms around Tenten, hiding the tiniest hint of a smile. Neji wondered how it would feel to hold her in his arms like this all the time..
Then, just like that, the blissful moment was broken. "Oh, our comrades are no longer at odds!" Lee cheered brightly, nodding as if to confirm. "How wonderful! Now we can proceed as planned without further bickering."
Gai merely surveyed the couple, a perceptive smile tugging at his lips. For once he stayed silent.
Tenten looked up at Neji, her lips twisted in a pout. "Stupid festival," she muttered.
"I'll be there," Neji reminded her.
"Yeah, and you'll be sulking in a corner," she teased.
"And you'll be crying along with me."
Tenten poked his chest. "Be quiet," she commanded.
Neji chuckled, fighting down the urge to hug her again.
"Look at that Lee! The fires of youth have indeed rekindled within their...their youthful souls!" Gai boomed. Lee's head bobbed up and down in agreement. Tenten and Neji rolled their eyes.
"The question is," Neji directed the attention away from him and Tenten at his best attempt, "how do we kill three hours?"
As soon as the question left his mouth, he instantly regretted asking. Gai's eyes lit up.
"Let us engage in a youth building activity!" Gai shouted, pumping his fist into the air.
"Yosh! Another excellent idea, sensei!" Lee squealed with delight.
"You've got to be kidding me," Tenten muttered, her hands finding their way to her hips. Neji rubbed his temples.
"Let us play the game of-of..." Gai trailed off. "Lee, what shall we play?"
"Hmm... I know! Hide and Go Seek!"
"Just kill me now," TenTen muttered feverishly, rubbing her temples. How much more could she take?
"A wonderful proposition, my youthful pupil! To make it better, let's split up into teams! Lee and I versus Neji and Tenten!"
Neji was curt and deadpan. "Forget it."
Tenten nodded, agreeing with Neji.
"Too bad! You two get to hide first."
Tenten and Neji glanced at each other.
"Look, we'll just hide somewhere they can easily find us. Then, when they hide, we'll 'search' for 3 hours. Okay?" Tenten whispered.
Neji considered the idea for a moment. "Considering their I.Q., this may actually work."
The two nodded at their sensei an teammate. Lee and Gai started counting.
Five minutes later, Neji and Tenten were still running around trying to find a place to hide.
"5...4...3...2...1... Ready or not, here we come!"
Tenten grabbed Neji's sleeve and dragged him into a tiny coat closet. They were practically hugging each other (that's how small the space was) as they waited for Gai and Lee to find them.
Neji tried to shift to a less awkward position but the attempt was futile. "Couldn't you have picked a better spot at random?" he muttered, inwardly a little pleased at the sensation of Tenten against him... whoa, cancel that last thought. He couldn't have thought that. Tenten was his comrade and friend, nothing more. Neji forced away the oncoming emotions.
Tenten blushed, a bit embarrassed at how awkward she'd made things. But she could not deny the fact that being in the arms of The Neji Hyuga was making her lightheaded. She nearly smiled at her partner's failed attempt to move away from her.
"Have you found them, Gai sensei?" Lee's voice boomed through the corridor.
"That idiot! Just hurry up!" Neji muttered. His head snapped down when he heard Tenten giggle.
"What is so funny?" he demanded to know.
Tenten shook her head and tightened her hold on him. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Relax, Neji," she whispered soothingly. The Hyuga was quite surprised at the softness of her voice. His jumbled nerves actually did seem to calm and he adjusted his arms on her waist. He tucked her head beneath his chin, feeling quite content.
Neji took back his last thought. He never wanted Gai or Lee to discover them. He could spend forever in Tenten's grasp. Thoroughly surprised at how much he was enjoying this, Neji allowed himself to relax, his tense muscles easing as TenTen fit her body into his perfectly. It was like they were.. made for each other.
Wow. Since when did he have such sappy thoughts?
Tenten closed her eyes, her breathing falling in sync with Neji's. She listened to the steady, calm beat of his heart, stifling a sigh of contentment. She felt safe, protected, maybe even loved when she was with him.
Neji heard her muffled breathing and vowed to protect her with his life from here on out. Just now he realized how precious she was to him, and knew he couldn't do anything else but cherish her. Even if it was in secret. He brushed back a stray strand of brown hair from her neck.
Tenten shivered when she felt Neji's cool fingers brush against her neck. She felt the Hyuga hold her tighter, as if protecting her, like she was precious to him.
He'd never feel that way about me. I shouldn't kid myself, she thought, disappointed.
Neji immediately felt her tension and rubbed her back in small, comforting circles. "What's wrong?" he whispered against her hair.
Tenten picked at the cloth of his shirt, not gracing him with a response.
"Tenten," Neji whispered again, "What's wrong? You can tell me anything, you know that."
His partner shook her head. There were some things he just did not need to know.
Neji had a pretty good feeling what was bothering her, but out of respect for Tenten remained silent and didn't probe further.
Tenten felt Neji's hand drop from her back and latched onto her waist. She didn't know if she should be disappointed or happy (although her mid was leaning towards the former).
Silence once again ensued.
Tenten felt herself falling asleep, soaking in Neji's warmth like a sponge.
"Close your eyes. I promise I'll be here when you awake," her partner whispered. Tenten mumbled something incoherent in response. The Hyuga leaned down to understand her better. But at that same moment, Tenten raised her head. Their lips brushed.
A jolt of energy ran though their bodies. Both separated to the best of their abilities, molding their forms to the wall. They stared at each other, wide-eyed and confused.
Neji seemed to regain the use of his tongue and blinked at her uncomprehendingly. "What..just happened?" He wasn't used to the feeling pumping through him. It was like adrenaline.. except more passionate.
"I-I don't- I'm not sure," Tenten answered. She felt so dazed, yet so very aware of every movement in the room. She could see Neji's finger's clawing at the wall, she could feel the vibration of Lee and Gai's footsteps, she could sense an ant crawling under the threshold of the door. Yet, she was unable to comprehend what was happening to her.
"Our lips touched. We- he-I kissed him. Or, did he kiss me? Or did we do at the same time? Or..."
"Tenten, what are you mumbling?"
The female blinked, embarrassed she had just thought aloud. Her cheeks colored.
Neji couldn't pinpoint the wave of emotions rushing through him. How was it that Tenten could awaken such feelings within him? It was unlike anything he'd ever known. Was this even natural?
He was aware of Tenten's flushed cheeks despite the darkness of the room, and he perceived that she hadn't even been aware of speaking. Uncertain, he ventured further. "..TenTen?"
Her head snapped up at the call of her name. It was Neji and only Neji, whom she could ever obey so easily. Their eyes locked, his gaze soft, hers weary.
"Yes?" she replied.
"Did-did we umm... kiss?"
Hyuga's did not stutter. Hyuga's were never unsure. And they never, ever loved.
Neji had just violated all those laws with that one simple question. Upon realizing this, he slipped his nonchalant mask back over his face and shook his head.
"Never mind," he told her.
"No," Tenten said slowly, wanting to hang onto this moment for all she was. She had to know. She HAD to. "Say that again."
Neji remained silent, the wheels churning inside of his head. The walls he'd worked so hard to built up began to crumble. And TenTen could see it clearly.
"Neji.. tell me," she ventured urgently.
The Hyuga stared at her with a blank expression, internally debating whether or not he should reply.
"Neji Hyuga, you will tell me this instant what you said!"
Neji narrowed his eyes, frowning, " I asked if we had just kissed? Happy?"
Tenten had to stop herself from saying yes. She suppressed a smile, but a blush again appeared on her cheeks.
Neji noticed and his defenses went up, the old scowl covering his porcelain featuers. "Why's that so important?" he demanded.
Several seconds went by without TenTen answering. Just as he was debating to repeat the question even though he knew she'd heard him, the brunette spoke up. "..It shows that you care."
Neji's frown deepened. "No, it doesn't. It means nothing. It was an accident."
"So are you saying we just spent fifteen minutes fretting over nothing?" Tenten asked, her voice raising to levels of hysteria.
"Actually, Tenten, you spen fifteen minutes fretting over nothing. I didn't care," Neji answered coolly, smirking at her.
And then, Tenten slapped him.
Neji was taken aback. How, in fifteen minutes, had they gone from kissing to slapping? Females were so unpredictable..
Maybe that was why he didn't want to drop his guard around them..
On instinct he stepped forward, seconds away from slapping her, but then he saw the slight fear in her deep brown eyes and softened, his hand lowering. Neji couldn't do this. Not to TenTen.
Tenten sunk back against the wall. She bit her lip, trying to keep tears from falling. It wasn't fair. When they were so close, they-he-it wasn't fair! She looked away as if she couldn't stand the sight of him. And honestly, at this moment, she really couldn't.
Neji's fingers twitched. He wanted to-to do something. He couldn't possibly just let her cry like that.
"Tenten," he murmured, reaching out and awkwardly resting hsi hand on her shoulder. It trailed down her arm, leaving goosebumps in its wake.
"Just stop it, Neji! Just leave me alone!"
"I can't do that," he told her firmly.
"Yes you can. You're Neji Hyuga, you have a heart of ice. You could so easily leave me behind," she whispered.
"I'm Neji Hyuga and I can't let anything go."
TenTen blinked, thinking she'd heard wrong. "W..What?"
"You heard me," Neji said, his hand sliding down her arm until it was tenderly entwined in hers. "Dry your tears. I hate to see you cry."
"Since when do you care about anything?" TenTen hissed, angry defenses rising. He was trying to mess with her mind.
Neji was silent for a long time. Then: "..I've always cared about you."
"Wh-what?" Tenten asked again, unable to comprehend what he was saying. "Neji... are you... feeling alright?"
"I'm fine," he answered, wiping away her tears with his thumb. "I'm just... perfectly fine," he repeated.
They both breathed hard; minds whirling, chest tightening, eyes glued to each other.
The silence was unbearably loud.
They began to lean in, and their eyelids fluttered shut. But their lips never met, but hovered a mere centimeter apart. It was hesitation, it was the fact that once they connected, everything would change. Change they weren't ready for, change they were afraid of.
"We-we can't do this," Tenten said, drawing back. Yes we can! her mind screamed, agonized.
Neji held onto her, his fists tightening around the fabric of her shirt. And then he pressed his lips to her, not caring what was going to happen the next second or the next minute. He was worried about now, about her, about them.
..And wouldn't you know, that was the exact moment Gai and Lee decided to stumble upon them.
"I have located them, Gai-Sens-" Lee cut himself off, shellshocked at the scene before him.
Tenten and Neji stared at their teammate, arms still around each other. Lee blinked back, unusually silent. But unfortunately, Lee being Lee, he began to shout for his sensei once more.
"GAI SENSEI! NEJI AND TENTEN ARE DOING SOMETHING NAUGHTY IN THE CLOSET!"
Neji's eyes widened. He sprang forward, tackling Lee to the ground. "Hush up!" he hissed.
TenTen clamped her hand over her mouth in horror, ironic thoughts tumbling through her head. Wouldn't you know, the one time...
Several of the hotel employees cheered as they overheard the joining of another couple. They drowned out Gai's astonished "WHAT?"
Tenten took a shaky breath and stepped out of the closet. After much struggling, she managed to pry Neji off Lee.
"Stop it! Both of you!" she hissed, glaring.
Gai sensei pushed his way through the crowd. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Immediately upon arriving before his three students, he trapped them all in a group hug.
But seeing at how close Neji and Tenten had been for three hours, they pushed him away.
It was awkward after that. The four made their way back to their rooms. No one uttered a peep.
"So... what now?" Neji spoke the words that were on everybody's mind.
"Why must you weep, Gai-sensei?" Lee inquired, absolutely crestfallen at the heartfelt emotion from his role model.
"Lee! These are tears of joy! The beautiful youth has blossomed in their hearts!" Gai exclaimed.
Neji's face twisted in disgust, and turned to Tenten. "Let's leave them alone and get ready for the 'festival'," he said.
Tenten glared at him. "Whatever," she muttered.
Back in their room, Tenten continued to be quite hostile towards the Hyuuga. Neji's fists clenched, his irritation obvious.
"Why are you staring at me like that?" he snapped, whipping his head in the female's direction.
"I'm not looking at you, I'm looking at the wall," she answered sneeringly.
Neji's lips twitched, not to smile, but frown. As quick as light, he crossed the room and pressed her against the wall.
"Why are you upset?" he questioned, pronouncing every word slowly.
"It doesn't matter." Tenten's voice was thick with anger, frustration, and disappointment.
Neji pressed his forehead to hers, their lips hovered a centimeter apart. "Tell me," he whispered.
"Get lost," Tenten bit out, not at all captivated by their proximity.
It was Neji's turn to glare. He pressed against her, till he could feel every curve of her body. His fingernails dug into her wrists.
Tenten bit her lip, trying not to whimper at the pain.
Neji smashed his lips on hers, refusing to pull back until he felt something warm and liquid-like on his hand. He held up her bleeding wrists, a bit shocked. He was graspiing them to keep her still, not to hurt her.
And then he looked back at her face and saw tears. He never saw the hand that reached up and slapped him (again).
"Leave me alone!" Tenten shouted, enraged by his behavior. She walked briskly out of the room, figuring being around Gai and Lee was better than being around him.
Lee and Gai were still rejoicing over Neji and Tenten's "union" when the brunette walked in. The angry vibes she was giving off was more than enough to silence the duo.
It was an awkward, tense moment until Lee caught a glimpse of her bleeding wrists. His bug eyes widened even more. "Tenten! Did Neji attempt liberties on yo-"
"SHUT UP!" TenTen's thunderous voice shook the walls. She was trembling violently. Neji would NEVER do that. ..Right?
Neji fists clenched, "Why can't I do anything right?" he yelled at himself, punching the wall repeatedly before sinking down against it. It was then he decided he wanted to give Tenten the best night of her life. No matter what she made him do, no matter how many times she slapped him and glared at him, he was determined to make her happy.
Back across the hall, Tenten had curled up into a ball and cried silently. Gai decided it was time he talked with Neji: man to man as he thought of it.
After Gai told Lee to keep an eye on Tenten (by which he meant, make sure she doesn't go hysterical or kick the crap out of anybody), he approached the room where Neji was in. "I think a man-to-man talk would be good for you right now, Neji," he suggested. "Have anything you need to discuss?"
"Aw, c'mon, Neji-"
"You know, I was quite the ladies man back in the da-"
Gai sighed, then decided a different approach. "..I know how to win Tenten back," he said with a dazzling smile.
Now he had the Hyuga's attention. Although pride screamed at Neji for him to refuse, his feelings for Tenten vanquished. "..I'm listening."
"Open up and I'll tell you," Gai said. Neji frowned, not at all pleased with the notion of letting Gai anywhere near him.
"Fine, then Tenten will hate you FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER!" his sensei unnecessarily dragged out the sentence to make his point. Neji's fits clenched and he quickly opened the door to satisfy him.
"You have five minutes," he hissed, glaring at the man. Gai grinned.
"That's all I'll need to turn you from drab to fab!" his sensei flashed him the good guy pose and dragged him back inside the room.
As shouts and loud bangs sounded from inside the next room, Tenten's curiosity peaked a little. Not to where she wasn't steamed off anymore. But curious just the same. "What's going on in there?" she demanded Lee's way.
Lee shrugged innocently. "I would assume that Gai-Sensei is working his magic."
"This is completely absurd! I look ridiculous!" Neji exclaimed, staring at himself in the mirror. He was dressed like a hippie, not Gai sensei's spandex, but a legit hippie. He had a fluffy white shirt faded jeans, and floral print head band tied around his forehead. Gai had even forced him to where aviator sunglasses for good measure.
"There. Now you look fabulous!" Gai told him, placing his hands on his hips and stepping back to admire his work.
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't take this all off, right now," Neji growled menacingly, brow creased in a lethal glare.
Gai rocked back and forth on his heels, grinning like a giddy schoolboy. "..Because it'll swoon TenTen! You'll sweep her off her feet!"
"I'll definitely knock her off her feet, for sure," Neji muttered under his breath, hating his reflection.
Tenten hugged her knees to her chest and frowned. "Lee, go make sure Neji isn't attempting to assassinate Gai sensei, would you?" she asked, looking up at her bushy-browed teammate. Lee saluted and raced off her.
Tenten sighed, "Peace at last."
..You know what one of the loudest sounds in the world is?
...Lee shrieking like an overjoyed fangirl.
"Oh, Gai-sensei! What lovely work! I applaud you!"
"It is pretty smashing, isn't it, Lee?" Gai's teeth sparkled.
Neji vaguely wished Tenten was on good terms with him so that they could exchange exaggerated glances and share an eyeroll. But instead he settled for a disspirited sigh.
"Gai sensei! You must make me fabulous as well!" Lee exclaimed. Gai was quick to agree and promptly shoved Neji out of the room. The Hyuga sighed, sitting down in the hall.
"Just stay calm and meditate," he told himself, closing his eyes and attempting to get rid of the stress.
TenTen about had it. She was sick and tired of all the comotion going on. The fury welled up inside her until it propelled her to where the source of the noise was.
..Then she was in for the shock of her life.
Tenten blinked uncomprehendingly before her. Was that NEJI..? It had to be him, because he was the only one who meditated in his pasttime. But his getup... well, stealing Neji's word here, it was ridiculous.
"Did a hippie throw up on you?" TenTen's anger was still obviously there, but now amusement added itself to the mix.
Neji cracked one eye open and responded with a nonchalant "No, Gai sensei did." He then resumed his meditating.
Tenten rolled her eyes. Men, she thought.
Needing to know, TenTen pressed further, "..Why?"
"Do you really want to know?" Neji asked stoically, not even skipping a beat in his meditating.
"Well, duh. That's why I asked," Tenten growled, about to run out of patience.
"I wanted to win you back. Not like this, of course, but Gai sensei is... a bit eccentric." He told her, as if it was obvious. Tenten's heart skipped a beat.
He cared about her...
At her lack of response, Neji opened his eyes and glanced at her curiously, then was stunned into silence. The look in her eyes said everything that didn't need to be spoken aloud.
Tenten stared a good few minutes or so at the ground. "He cares" was all she could think. Neji furrowed his eyebrows as he observed a change in her visage and nearly jumped in surprise when he saw tears. "Wasn't this what she wanted?" he asked himself, confused, "Now I've gone and upset her again."
"Tenten," he said softly, "What have I done to give you grief?"
TenTen was silent for several minutes while she composed herself. Then she answered in a voice just as soft.
"If you would've asked me that ten minutes ago, I would've had an entire tirade prepared. But now.." She started getting choked up again as her eyes met his pearly white orbs full of unconcealed compassion. "..I'm just glad to know you..you care.." TenTen didn't really know how to sum up her feelings, but she hoped it spoke for itself. Her heart was in her eyes.
Neji did not know what to say. And even if he did, he was sure he couldn't possibly open his mouth to respond. It took all his effort just to keep breathing and sit upright. Tenten's eyes were screaming "I love you" right at his face. That was what he wanted and he hated that he didn't have a word to answer. Even a nod, a smile, was impossible. But Tenten did all the talking for him.
"You love me too. I know that," she said quietly. But her voice was the only thing loud enough to be heard over the thrum of his heart. And her form was the only thing his eyes could see. He sat there dumbly, still paralyzed with awe and overwhelming happiness, as she dropped to her knees and gave him a hug.
Neji finally regained control of his limbs. He wrapped his arms around TenTen, pulling her closer protectively. He never wanted to let go.
"Aww, I knew that outfit would do the trick!" A deep masculine voice rang out. Gai beamed down at the two, his miniature standing beside him- in an outfit just as, if not more, dorky as Neji's.
Lee grinned up at his sensei. "You are so full of wisdom, Gai-Sensei! You must teach me!" He whipped out his notebook.
Neji hardly registered the duo's words. His thoughts were centered on the girl in his arms, nothing more, nothing less.
Tenten giggled suddenly feeling so blissful. Neji watched her lovingly, and pressed her head to his chest. He buried his face in her hair, his senses picking up all that was her.
Lee piped up annoyingly as Neji and Tenten continued to hold each other. "..I believe it is time for the festival ceremony.."
His comment caught Neji's attention, and the Hyuga swiftly turned his head in Lee's direction. "You're not seriously making us go, are you?" he questioned.
"Of course we are!" Gai answered, smiling his blinding grin.
"Neji, let's just go and get it over with," Tenten said softly. Neji sighed, but complied.
"Fine, just let me change out of this," he said.
"Oh no. I want you to wear it," Tenten told him, pinching his cheek. Neji frowned, but seeing as he couldn't refuse her, he nodded.
Gai beamed. "That's the spirit, Tenten! Maybe we should consult you to inquire these things of Neji. Since he obviously can't deny you." Lee snickered and Neji shot them a lethal glare, eyes visibly softening when they landed on TenTen.
Tenten rolled her eyes, but her lips were parted in a small smile. "Whatever," she said, feeling too happy to care about anything.
As the foursome made their way out of the hotel and toward the summer festival. All the residents of Upendi either cheered or beamed at Neji and TenTen, recognizing newfound love when they saw it. Neji clasped Tenten's hand, softly.
Tenten turned her gaze to their intertwined fingers and smiled. She glanced at Neji, and swore she saw the tips of his ears redden. He was adorable.
Neji felt Tenten's eyes on him and angled his head enough to get lost in her brown flecks. "What are you thinking?" he whispered, giving her hand a slight squeeze.
"Nothing. I'm just... happy, for us," she added, squeezing his hand back. A smile flitted across Neji's lips, and eventually, his hand slipped from hers. He wrapped his arm around her waist, tucking her into his side.
"You're so cute," Tenten finally told him, pinching his cheek. The Hyuga blushed.
"I was just cold," he mumbled, but they both knew that was a lie.
"Don't even try," TenTen teased, then stopped, taking an awed breath as they arrived at the summer festival. It was beautiful. Adorned with every gaudy, lovey thing you could think of, its bright lights shined like fireworks in the twilight sky.
Neji did not bother turning his sight on the festival, no matter how magnificent the display may be. He was captivated with the sudden sparkle in Tenten's eyes, and the flush of her rosy cheeks. Without thinking, he leaned down and brushed his lips on her cheek.
Tenten's head snapped in his direction, her large doe eyes wide. She reached up to touch her face.
Neji placed his hand over the one on her cheek, and entangled their fingers again. "C'mon," he said softly, tugging her in the direction of the festival.
"Right..festival.." Tenten repeated absentmindedly, too infatuated with Neji's touch to think straight.
"Ah, young love!" Gai once again swooned, watching the couple.
Neji led the way, keeping Tenten close. He had never much liked social gatherings, but with his significant other by his side, he felt braver.
TenTen relished in Neji's touch, sighing as she snuggled closer to him, falling in step beside him. "You ready for this?" she teased.
"If you're here, then I am," Neji replied, his gaze filled with affection. She was too adorable to handle. He had to resist the urge to just squeeze the life out of her with a bone-crushing hug.
TenTen had an inner squeal. Who would've thought Neji Hyuga would be so affectionate and open like this? Her eyes shimmered with tenderness just before music wafting through the air towards them directed her attention. There were dancing couples, swaying to a slow song in the middle of the festival. Leave it to Upendi. Tenten tried to conceal the longing from her face.
Neji, however, was far too observant. He immediately noticed the wistful glance Tenten sent to the dancing couples. The Hyuga was not fond of dancing, but regular attendance at his family parties had taught him the basic steps at least. He firmly grasped Tenten's hand, and wordlessly led her into the middle of the festival.
When he turned to look at her again, her expression was filled with awe. Chuckling, he drew her near and whispered in her ear, "Follow my lead."
And with that, he led her in a graceful waltz.
TenTen was breathless, her moves looking amateur next to Neji's graceful sweeps across the dance floor. "How'd you know?" she whispered, not wanting to break the trance between them. She gazed at him with adoring eyes.
"It's so adorable I can barely stand it!" Gai wept joyfully. Lee burst into tears beside him.
"I know, Gai-sensei! I know!"
"Tenten, when have you ever been able to hide anything form me?" he asked, pressing his forehead to hers. Tenten colored, averting her gaze elsewhere.
"I've hid my crush for years," she mumbled. The Hyuuga blinked, unable to understand what she had just said.
Tenten shook her head quickly, flustered, "It's nothing."
Neji frowned. He could see something was troubling her.
"Tenten, what's troubling you?" Neji asked quietly, pulling her closer to him, tenderness evident in every caress.
Tenten tried really hard not to melt in a pile of goo. She bit her lip, not really wanting to delve in the topic any further.
Neji knew where his limits laid. He could see she was rather tightlipped with the issue and decided to drop it, instead leading her in another graceful waltz.
Soon they forgot about their momentary predicament and were lost in each other. Gai and Lee were crying waterfalls from the sidelines, and eventually started dancing with each other.
TenTen lifted her gaze to Neji's, noticing how close their faces were. "..All of this was worth it," she whispered as the music took a slow turn. She didn't just mean the day and it's happenings, even though that had taken its straining toll. She meant hiding her feelings in secrecy for years, working alongside him through the toughest days, everything life had thrown at them. It was all worth it, in this moment.
Neji leaned in, a shiver running along his spine as their noses brushed. Slowly, almost too slowly, he pressed his lips to hers.
TenTen felt a tingle of delight course through her body at the contact. She slowly wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed back with years of pent-up passion.
"This is what I call a happy ending, Gai-sensei," Lee commented as he watched, bug eyes shining.
Gai was dabbing at his eyes with a hankerchief. "I-I couldn't agree more, Lee," he sniffled.
Neji nuzzled Tenten's neck as he tried to hide his grin.
"I love you," he said.
Tenten giggled, "I love you too."
..Who would've known that it'd take a last-minute trip to a love-infested town to turn these two around.
A/N: Soo? Did y'all like it? OF COURSE YOU DID! XDDD Wasn't it so dang sweet? 8D Neji's like a big ol' teddy bear on the inside..xD Anyway, I LOVED the way this turned out! Thanks for writing with me, Midnight Insomniac! I had bunches o'fun, girl! xDD Who knows, maybe the opportunity will present itself and we'll do it again. ^_^ But for now, PLEASE review and leave some feedback for our hard work! Thankies! 83